On any given Sunday, parking lots across America are sources of joy and cholesterol. And when you host a tailgate, you unknowingly enter into an unwritten social contract that you will do everything in your power to make the entire scene — not just your sorry jalopy — a source of all things wonderful on game day. That’s why every ingredient is crucial — your choice of beverages, your menu and, of course, your music. The right tunes can set the tempo for a perfect pregame experience. Then… there are these songs.
10. “Cat’s in the Cradle” by Harry Chapin
The soul-crushing anthem documenting the never-ending cycle of shattered father-son relationships is proooobably not your best bet for a pump up song. Although it is funny thinking about this song playing at a Giants game. “Brah. Turn it off. Brah – tur- BRAH. TURN IT OFF. Oh God. I gotta cawl Big Geno.”
Also, true story: Rex Ryan probably listens to this song after every loss.
9. The ending song from Requiem for a Dream
If you’ve never seen this movie — much less the ending — consider yourself warned. The last 10 minutes of this film are so bleak that, after seeing it, I almost had to take a few days off of work. Put another way: it’s like the past 30 years of being a Lions fan (last year notwithstanding) concentrated into a 10-minute segment.
Death Cab for Cutie (Photo Credit: Mike Lawrie/Getty Images)
8. “What Sarah Said” by Death Cab for Cutie
This song is written from the perspective of someone sitting in the waiting room of a hospital, listening to the heart monitor next door, and knowing that with every beep, that person is one step closer to being gone forever. It’s a devastatingly accurate description of the Buffalo v. Toronto scenario playing out with the Bills right now.
7. Any song
There are some purists — and I’m not saying I’m one of them — who think that music at tailgates is reserved for 1) bastards, and 2) Ohio State fans (read: bastards). When in doubt, just concentrate on the meat and the beer.
6. “In Your Eyes” by Peter Gabriel
This catchy little number has the sneaky superpower of making you instantly fall in love with whomever you’re talking to when it comes on. So unless you want your tailgate to become really friendly really quickly, give this one a pass.
5. “Hurt” by Johnny Cash
Legend has it that once, before a recording session between Chris Cornell of Soundgarden and Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, the two musicians sat down and listened to this heart-wrenching cover (Trent Reznor wrote the original version). Allegedly, afterwards, both of them just left the studio for the day to go get a cup of coffee and just, like, talk about life. It also contains more joy than the past 29 years of BC football.
4. “Hey, Foxymophandlemama, That’s Me” by Pearl Jam
Look man, I’ve been listening to Pearl Jam since I was a kid. Same with a lot of folks. And I don’t know a single person that’s listened to this track more than once ever. Here’s a sample of the lyrics: “My spanking, that’s the only thing I want so much / why is that better than being hugged? / because you get closer to the person.” This horse hockey plays amidst a percussive cacophony better suited for the fever dreams of an LSD addict. I don’t know what it means, but I think it’s about being a twisted glutton for punishment that — somehow — derives intense pleasure from pain. And no fan base wants or deserves that. Anyway, Go Irish!
3. “The Super Bowl Shuffle” by the Chicago Bears Shuffling Crew
It goes without saying that this “song” is probably fine at Bears games. But knowing the grumpy Bears fans I know, I can’t say for sure. What I CAN say is that playing this at any non-Soldier Field parking lot will probably get you a look like you just pooped in the punch bowl.
2. “You Broke My Heart” by William Fitzsimmons
This is, quite simply, the saddest song I have ever heard. It’s as if the music itself formed into an anthropomorphic melody man whose sole intent was to punch you in the stomach whenever you weren’t looking. The best I can figure is that this song was probably written about the Browns in 1996.
1. The Michigan Wolverines fight song
Because screw those guys, and screw my journalistic integrity. This song sucks.
Somehow, somehow I made it through 10 awful songs for football games and didn’t mention Iron & Wine. That deserves a mention, right? Anyway. I trust you guys at this point. You know what to do. Take a pass on these songs and keep the brats warm, and you can’t go wrong.
Check out more Tailgating Top 10s.
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Brian Cullen had to listen to all these songs while writing this list. It was uh… it was a pretty terrible day @Bucketcullen.